Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Analysis of an at-bat: Braun vs. Liriano, 6/15/12

It's easy for sports fans to take a star player for granted. Since they are stars, they are expected to be awesome pretty much all of the time. After awhile, some of the awesome things they do get overlooked. For example, Ryan Braun did something pretty amazing in a forgotten game mid-way through June of this year. Let's set up the scenario.

The game in question was the first of a three-game set in Minneapolis against the crappy Twins. The Twins had their "ace" on the mound, Francisco Liriano. Coming into the sixth inning, Liriano was throwing a no-hitter, albeit a fairly messy one (two walks and a hit batter allowed to that point). Liriano has done this kind of thing before, and the Brewers offense had already taken part in a lengthy no-hit bid by Luis Mendoza and would take part in another bid from Bronson Arroyo before the end of the month. It was setting up to be another frustrating offensive performance, at least until Liriano did two very silly things and Ryan Braun did one very great thing.

With a 2-0 lead, Liriano started off the sixth inning by walking #9 hitter Edwin Maysonet (rofl), getting Nori Aoki to fly out after a lengthy at-bat, then walking #2 hitter Carlos Gomez (ROFL). Up comes Braun, who had walked and struck out in his prior plate appearances. Liriano starts him off with a slider low and out of the strike zone which Braun goes after and fouls off.

Then Liriano throws a changeup, even lower out of the zone. Braun once again goes after it, and once again fouls it off.

Ahead in the count 0-2, Liriano then does what any intelligent pitcher would do, and throws another slider out of the zone.

Braun swings.

And hits a no-doubter home run to center field (highlight found here). The Brewers have a 3-2 lead, on their first hit of the ballgame no less. Now Liriano is sad. 


Here are the list of things going against Braun prior to the home run:
 - He was down 0-2 in the count. He's a career .219 hitter when down 0-2.
 - Target Field is a pitcher's park.
 - For all his faults, Liriano possesses very good off-speed and breaking pitches. Once again, he had not given up a hit to that point. 
 - Liriano did not throw a strike 0-2. Physicists theorize that balls are harder to hit than strikes.
 - Hitting home runs is really hard.
 - He was behind in the count 0-2. Liriano could have thrown a pitch into the upper deck and it would have been the right thing to do. I cannot stress enough how hard it is to hit in that situation, much less hit the ball hard.

Here are the things that were in Braun's favor.
 - He's Ryan Braun.
 - That's pretty much it.

Funny thing is, it's arguable that it wasn't even the most memorable moment in the game, much less the series. The Twins would tie the game in the bottom of the inning, and catcher Martin Maldonado would break the tie with what would be the game-winning two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning. The next day, Braun clobbered two home runs to back a strong pitching performance from Mike Fiers (a game I attended). The third game of the series went 15 innings. As soon as the series was over, Braun's incredible at-bat was forgotten, just another home run among the 41 he ended up hitting. Which is a shame because it was a truly remarkable moment for a truly remarkable player. 

1 comment:

  1. Did you actually roll on the floor while laughing when Maysonett and Gomez drew walks?